NetBeans with NBandroid, Emulator Never Shows After Building/Running With F6

Trying to build my first (or second, I tend to forget) Android project under NetBeans, I ran into an issue where the emulator would never show up when I tried to build the project. Turns out I even got a null pointer exception which I thought were generated somewhere else in NetBeans (next time: read the actual exception and don’t assume).

The solution to fix the emulator never showing up? Update the currently installed version of the JDK. (Thanks to a Stackoverflow thread for hinting in the correct direction) Remember that NetBeans might be tied to a particular version of the JDK (either in the command line arguments or in netbeans.conf in the etc/ directory of the NetBeans installation directory). I uninstalled any older version, which gave me an error about the value of jdkhome being wrong, and asking if I wanted to use the default path instead. That worked, but the error shows up each time. Comment out the jdkhome-line in netbeans.conf and it’ll guess automagically each time (if guessing works for you), or if guessing doesn’t work, add the new path to the JDK in netbeans.conf.

Java and NetBeans: Illegal escape character

When defining strings in programming languages, they’re usually delimited by ” and “, such as “This is a string” and “Hello World”. The immediate question is what do you do when the string itself should contain a “? “Hello “World”” is hard to read and practically impossible to parse for the compiler (which tries to make sense out of everything you’ve written). To solve this (and similiar issues) people started using escape characters, special characters that tell the parser that it should pay attention to the following character(s) (some escape sequences may contain more than one character after the escape character).

Usually the escape character is \, and rewriting our example above we’ll end up with “Hello \”World\””. The parser sees the \, telling it that it should parse the next characters in a special mode and then inserts the ” into the string itself instead of using it as a delimiter. In Java, C, PHP, Python and several other languages there are also special versions of the escape sequences that does something else than just insert the character following the escape character.

\n – Inserts a new line.
\t – Inserts a tab character.
\xNN – Inserts a byte with the byte value provided (\x13, \xFF, etc).

A list of the different escape sequences that PHP supports can be found in the PHP manual.

Anyways, the issue is that Java found an escape sequence that it doesn’t know how to handle. Attempting to define a string such as “! # \ % &” will trigger this message, as it sees the escape character \, and then attempts to parse the following byte – which is a space (” “). The escape sequence “\ ” is not a valid escape sequence in the Java language specification, and the parser (or NetBeans or Eclipse) is trying to tell you this is probably not what you want.

The correct way to define the string above would be to escape the escape character (now we’re getting meta): “! # \\ % &”. This would define a string with just a single backlash in it.

When the Ubuntu Sound Control Panel Doesn’t Show Up

After upgrading from Ubuntu 9.0 to 9.10 the other day, I suddenly got a very annoying beep every time I saved a file in NetBeans. Horrible stuff! Disabling it in NetBeans seems impossible (and Firefox makes the same sound when it encounters an error), so removing it in the Ubuntu Sound Configuration Panel sounded (!) like the best option.

One problem: The Sound Control Panel (when selecting System -> Preferences -> Sound) didn’t open. It attempts to load, but then disappears without a trace. I couldn’t find a notice in any of the logfiles either, so my only hope of a remedy was the global debugging power of teh intarwebs.

This was actually harder than I imagined, as I had to wade through large amounts of documentation of how to open the control panel at all. I had found the menu item, but it didn’t work.

Luckily someone had documented several issues at a page named “Sound Solutions for Ubuntu 9.04“, and while I didn’t have the exact problems listed there, they mentioned the required packages for pulseaudio and the GUIs.

Installing the padevchooser package should pull in all the dependencies:

root@ubuntu:~# apt-get install padevchooser

(Use sudo apt-get install padevchooser if you’re not root)

At the same split second the installer finished, the sound configuration dialog opened and I were able to switch to the NO SOUND scheme in Ubuntu. No beeps!

The Thumbs Up! of Awesome Approval

Every once in a while a few new interesting tools surface themselves and become a natural part of how a developer works. I’ve taken a look at which tools I’ve introduced in my regular workflow during the last six months.


NetBeans got the first version of what has become awesome PHP support in version 6.5, and after version 6.7 got released just before the summer, things have become very stable. NetBeans is absolutely worth looking into for PHP development (and Java), and you sure can’t beat the price (free!). In the good old days NetBeans were slow as hell, but I’ve not noticed any serious issues in 6.7 (.. although we didn’t really have quad cores and 4GB of memory back then either). Go try it out today!

Balsamiq Mockups

Balsamiq is an awesome tool for making quick mockups for UI designs. Previous I’d play around in Adobe Photoshop, dragging layers around and being concerned with all the wrong things. Mockups abstracts away all the UI elements (and comes with a vast library of standard elements), which makes it very easy to experiment and focus on the usability instead of the design and its implementation. For someone who’s more interested in the experience and the programming than the actual design (.. I’ll know what I want when I see it!) this makes it easy to convey my suggestions and create small, visual notes of my own usabilityideas.

You can try it out for free at their website, and they even give away licenses to people who are active in Open Source Development (disclaimer: I got a free license, but the experiences are all my own. This is not paid (or unpaid) advertising or product placement.)


I’ve been playing around with git a bit, but after writing a patch for the PEAR-module for Gearman (.. which still doesn’t seem to have made it anywhere significant), I signed up for github to be able to fork the project and submit my patch there. A very good technical solution partnered with an easy way of notifying the original developers of your patch (which you simply provide in your own branch) by submitting a “pull request” makes it very easy to both have patches supplied to you and to submit patches to projects hosted at GitHub.

Thumbs up!

Changing The Source Directory in NetBeans

After reorganizing the directory structure on my workstation a bit, NetBeans refused to load the sources for the projects I have configured. The reason for this is probably because I store the NetBeans metadata files separate from the Source directory itself (as I don’t want the NetBeans project files in the repository, etc.).

NetBeans did however not have the option of choosing another source location (changing the existing location) for an existing project. Well, no worries. Luckily the NetBeans project files are in straight forward text format, so we can easily change it there instead! Close NetBeans (so that you don’t accidentally overwrite the new project file) Find the project directory and open “nbproject”. The file “” is the one we’re after. Close to the top (on line 3 here) you should find:

src.dir=<old path>

Simply change it to:

src.dir=<new path>

while remembering to pay attention to any escape sequences etc along the way (under Windows, \ needs to be escaped, so c:\\Directory\\SubDirectory is the appropriate path).